From Tragedy to Triumph – Podcast Ep. 3

From Tragedy to Triumph – Podcast Ep. 3

Welcome to the 3rd episode of the Living Healthy Podcast, presented by LA Fitness.

On this episode of Living Healthy, we speak with LA Fitness member, motivational speaker, author and all-around positive person, Logan Seelye. Logan shares his story and gives listeners advice on how they can move forward, even when life knocks them down.

How Are We Doing? 

This podcast should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Timecard Markers – From Tragedy to Triumph – Podcast Ep. 3

Introduction of Logan Seelye

Begins at 0:01

Logan Seelye joins the show

Begins at 1:20

Outlook on life

Begins at 1:41

The tackle, Logan takes us back

Begins at 2:37

The 10 and 90 quote

Begins at 6:07

The 10 and 90 Foundation

Begins at 7:53

Fitness after the injury

Begins at 9:25

Logan’s typical workout routine

Begins at 12:06

Logan’s mentor

Begins at 12:50

Logan’s Advice

Begins at 16:09

Recommended Podcast Episodes 

AAT: Ep. 23 – Is Working Out Twice a Week a Good Starting Point?

AAT: Ep. 23 – Is Working Out Twice a Week a Good Starting Point?

Ask A Trainer: Featured Question of the Week

LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Stone T., gives his expert advice on what a good starting point is for working out. Are you hitting the magic number? Find out with us.

Do you have a fitness question? Ask one of our certified Pro Results® trainers here! Your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask Our Trainer video.**

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**Selected submissions will be featured on the LA Fitness blog and possibly other LA Fitness digital media entities & websites. By making a submission, you hereby grant LA Fitness a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to use and make copies of the contents of such submission for any purpose and in any medium whatsoever, and you hereby waive and relinquish any copyright or other intellectual property right you may have in the contents of such submission and your right to pursue any claim for LA Fitness’s violation of those intellectual property rights.

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Are These Foods Killing You?

Are These Foods Killing You?

In a World…

Imagine your life as a movie, with you as the star and the choices you make ultimately determine the closing credits. That’s what life is after all, right? It’s made up of decisions you ultimately choose. You’re the star of the show, and your friends and family are there cheering you on for success.

But every great movie has its antagonist(s), the bad guy, the something or someone holding you back from reaching your ultimate goal. This may seem scary, but guess what this makes you? The protagonist! The leading character in your own narrative. You’re the hero, the one who determines the acts of your life.

So, ask yourself this – what choices am I going to make today that will write the next page of my life’s story?

Your best life will not be without its challenges, and in order to face these obstacles head-on, it’s important to remember that having the right physical and mental mindset is of the utmost importance.

Villains come in many forms. Today, our focus is on nutrition killers. Cue the menacing music, shut the blinds, and listen closely, because knowing what to look out for just might save your life.

Breakfast Blunders

For decades, breakfast has been hailed as the most important meal of the day, so shouldn’t something as instrumental in laying the groundwork for the rest of the day’s progress be given adequate attention? Even superheroes need their superfoods and we’re here to let you know of some of the seemingly healthy breakfast options that are secretly wolves in sheep clothing.

Cereal and Granola

Seamlessly innocent but loaded with sugar. Even options labeled as ‘high-fiber’ or ‘whole grain’ doesn’t discount the fact that most morning cereals and granola aren’t as healthy as they let on. For those who are gluten intolerant, watch out for inflammation trouble and skin breakouts. Sugar can also have this effect on the body. Not to mention spiking blood sugar levels and leaving you feeling sluggish after the sugar rush wears off. Think of overly processed and high sugar meals as your body’s kryptonite.

Healthier Alternative: Try an apple with some peanut butter and a handful of almonds instead. The apple will help give your body a healthy dose of energy from its naturally occurring sugar, and peanut butter and almonds add protein. Thirsty? Keep those bones strong with a glass of calcium-rich milk (or almond milk if you’re lactose intolerant). Now you’re ready to take on the day!

Sinister Snacks

The allure of hot golden crisp French fries, the crunch of salty potato chips… the thought alone is drool-worthy, but at what cost?

Chips, Fries & Popcorn

Calling out all chips – blue corn chips, veggie chips, multi-grain chips, and baked potato chips! Much like ice cream or other indulgent snacks, they seem to always be there in a time of need. The cravings for sweet and salty snacks is common for most, but can easily be replaced with healthier alternatives that provide that sweet or salty fix we’re craving (see below!)

The trouble is that most chips contain trans fats that can increase cholesterol levels, leading to an increase in coronary heart disease. If you’re thinking blue corn chips, multigrain chips, veggie chips or otherwise are healthier for you, we hate to burst your bubble, but they’re not. Calorie, fat and sodium counts are still going to be at elevated levels and lacking the true nutrition your body needs to stay properly fueled.

Fries, along with other fried foods, are oftentimes cooked in harmful oils and trans fats. When foods are baked or fried at high temperatures, a carcinogen called acrylamide is produced, which has been shown to increase cancer risk in mice. However, more studies need to be done on how this carcinogen affects humans.1 Our suggestion? It’s probably best to steer clear of greasy fried foods.

Sadly, microwaved popcorn is also another ostensibly healthy snack that actually isn’t so healthy. There are three main culprits that cause this: 1) carcinogens (there’s that word again), otherwise thought of as cancer-causing free radicals; 2) perfluorochemicals (PFCs) which help make the bags more greaseproof and also have been linked to thyroid disease, ADHD, and other illnesses, and lastly; 3) diacetyl, another cancer-causing chemical (found in the artificial fats).

Phew. That’s a lot of health negatives, not to mention the excessive amounts of sodium! Pop your own kernels to negate a lot of these issues.

Healthier Alternative: If you’re craving something sweet to snack on, make your own yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts, and cacao! Looking for something more on the salty side? Try olives with cheese, pickles or whole wheat crackers topped with cottage cheese or a mixed olive spread!

Fa(s)t Foods

Life gets busy, days fly by, and sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to focus on healthy eating. This is normally when fast food seems like the quickest and easiest option when rushing around to get things done – but don’t take the easy option! Remember, you’re the hero of your life’s movie and heroes never take the easy way.

“Healthy” Fast Foods

Let’s break it down. Sure, fast food burgers are generally assumed to be unhealthy, and for those looking to lower their caloric intake or choose a healthier option, they may turn instead to a fast food salad, veggie burger, veggie pizza, veggie omelet, turkey burger, or grilled portabella sandwich instead (just to name a few). These are not always a better choice.

These marketed “healthier options” are usually pre-made, cooked in oils or butter, and can contain “hidden” calories found in added dressings, toppings or seasonings they are prepared with. There are ways, however, to help combat these issues. Ask for dressings on the side, have your meal prepared without butter or salt, and ask to have your burger or sandwich made protein-style (wrapped in lettuce without a bun).

Plot Twist: The drive-through isn’t your only enemy.

It’s important to note that this includes fast frozen dinners and sometimes canned products too. Yes, the grocery store does have its version of “drive-through” foods. Frozen diet dinners are usually packed with preservatives, loaded with sodium and contain few veggies. Have you ever wondered why a frozen meal just doesn’t quite taste as good as a home-cooked meal? That’s because it’s not fresh.

Canned products like soups and beans can seem healthy, but we think you’re noticing a theme here… beware of these seemingly healthy products! When shopping always read the ingredients list to check for sodium, sugar, and carbs, and take into consideration the serving size. A product may seem healthy, but if it contains 3 servings and you eat the entire thing you have to remember to multiply the nutrition facts by three (as an example).

A word to the wise, good things take time.

Healthier Alternative: Make your own “fast foods” at home! Sunday night meal prep means you can make your foods in advance, pay attention to what you’re putting into your dishes, and then pre-package (or even freeze) your meals ahead of time for the rest of the week. Less money spent on eating out, a healthier body, and the proud accomplishment that comes with making a smarter choice. You go, you.

The Trouble with Fruit Alternatives

Fruit is healthy, right? Right? Not always. Fruit juices, dried fruit, smoothies, fruit cocktail, and fruit snacks can be loaded with added sugars! Seems strange, doesn’t it? Fruit is already naturally sweet so why add even more sugar? Too much sugar can lead to a countless number of diseases, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

When fruits are taken out of their original states, a lot of times this means what you’re eating or drinking doesn’t have the same nutritional value as eating the fruit whole on its own. Dried fruits usually have added ingredients to help with self-life and spoilage. Fruit juices are often not even 100% fruit juice and can contain artificial flavors and added sugars.

Smoothies are tricky because they can be healthy if made yourself at home and with the right healthy ingredients, but if purchased elsewhere, they can often be loaded with unhealthy base ingredients and again, added sugars. Fruit cocktails are kept in a sugary syrup that does nothing good for the body and fruit snacks pale in comparison to eating the real thing.

Healthier Alternative:

  • Step 1: Find your favorite type of fruit.
  • Step 2: Wash it.
  • Step 3: Eat that instead.

Bad Breads

Breads get a bad rap. Are they really bad for you? Yes and no. What is bad for you are the breads that add no real nutritional value to your diet or the breads that add way too many calories to your meal.

Wraps and Croutons

There is no lack of the types of tortilla wraps you can choose from. From sun-dried tomato, to spinach, to whole wheat, they seem healthy but depending on their size, added proteins, fillers, and sauces, your calorie count can easily exceed a healthy value.

As for croutons, they may seem small and harmless but they offer no added nutritional benefit for the body. It’s an easy way to add on calories to otherwise healthy salads. If you’re missing the crunch they bring to the dish, try swapping them out for nuts or crunchy veggies instead.

Healthier Alternative: If you don’t want to completely give up your relationship with bread, try opting for 100% whole wheat sandwich thins or use cracks instead. Another option is to use smaller tortillas for wraps and save yourself the extra calories, or you can always split your sandwich or wrap in half and enjoy the rest later!

Damaging Drinks

Sports drinks, energy drinks, diet drinks, tea drinks, flavored soymilk, protein shakes, and sodas – all of these are not water and not the greatest for you.

Sports drinks are mainly a combination of water (good), electrolytes (not bad) and sugar (yikes). For athletes performing high-intensity training, they might benefit from the electrolytes and sugar to help replenish the sodium and sugars they’ve depleted during their workout. However, most people do not need these types of drinks and are best to replenish with all-natural water instead.

Energy drinks should be a definite no-go. Most energy drinks on the market are not FDA approved because they are marketed as dietary supplements, rather than a conventional food or beverage which fall under the authority of the FDA. Without knowing exactly how these drinks are affecting your body, or the ingredients in them, again opt for water instead. It’s the one thing your body absolutely needs after a major sweat-sesh.

Diet sodas and regular sodas are usually made up of artificial ingredients, flavorings, and high levels of sodium. Even drinks that boost about zero calories, zero sugar, and zero sodium should still raise a red flag. Diet drinks use alternative sweeteners that could do long-term damage on the body. Drinkers of diet sodas have also been found to eat more calories after consuming a diet beverage2.

Good news! Tea drinks can be healthy! It’s the tea beverages with added sugars, sodium and artificial flavorings that are the ones to stay away from.

Sugar seems to be the reoccurring theme of what makes certain beverages less than ideal. For example, flavored soymilk can contain so much added sugar that it acts as more of a dessert than a regular everyday drink. Opt for original soymilk if you prefer it over whole milk. Regular soy milk can help provide the body with protein and potassium and be low in cholesterol.3

 Take caution with protein shakes. While protein is essential to helping build muscle and keeps our bodies strong, the wrong type of protein drink could be highly processed and filled with sugar. Make sure you know exactly what ingredients you’re consuming before mixing up your next protein shake!

Breads get a bad rap. Are they really bad for you? Yes and no. What is bad for you are the breads that add no real nutritional value to your diet or the breads that add way too many calories to your meal.


Healthier Alternative: The healthiest option is always water. Our bodies need it to live. If regular water gets too boring for you, try infusing it with cucumber or orange slices. There are also carbonated flavored waters on the market which can help satisfy if it’s the fizz you’re missing.

Low-Fat, Fat-Free, Gluten-Free, Reduced-Fat, Organic, and Light Food Options

Light salad dressings, flavored fat-free yogurts, low-fat muffins, reduced-fat peanut butter – they all sound great but don’t let their labels deceive you. Many times, when the fat is pulled out of a product that means a less healthy alternative is being added in its place to make up for the lack of flavor. This could mean you end up eating chemicals, artificial sweeteners and excess amounts of sugar or sodium that your body doesn’t need.

Even gluten-free or organic labeled food items can be unhealthy if they are junk foods. Sorry – there is just no way to make those tasty cheats healthy, even if they are gluten-free or all organic (sigh).

Margarine also falls into this category because contrary to popular belief, it’s not all that healthy. Marketed as cholesterol-free and as a healthy alternative to butter, it’s actually much higher in trans-fat compared to butter, which can elevate cholesterol levels and do damage to blood vessel walls.4 If you’re looking to stay away from both butter and margarine, try supplementing with olive oil instead.

Breads get a bad rap. Are they really bad for you? Yes and no. What is bad for you are the breads that add no real nutritional value to your diet or the breads that add way too many calories to your meal.


Healthier Alternative: Sometimes it’s OK to indulge in the all-natural, full-fat products. Our bodies do need a healthy balance of fats after all. Just make sure not to overdo it!


  1. Orenstein, Beth W. “Web Exclusive.” Today’s Dietitian,
  2. editors, “50 ‘Good’ Foods That Are Bad for You.” Shape Magazine, Shape Magazine, 10 Dec. 2015,
  3. Ibid
  4. Simone, Mike. “8 Absolute Worst Foods for Weight Loss and Health.” Men’s Journal, 24 Feb. 2018,

Recommended Reading

Member Spotlight | When Enough Is Enough

Member Spotlight | When Enough Is Enough

August 2016

Barrie, Ontario, Canada – Meet Debbie E., a member who was quite unhealthy for the longest time. You may ask yourself, what makes a 49-year-old woman suddenly change her relationship with health and fitness? Was it someone else’s idea? Was it something that happened? Why the change? Why now? Well, much like the beginning of a grand novel in which our protagonist is unaware of life-changing self-discovery laying ahead, it started off as a day like any other… Our story starts in September 2016, when Debbie went to watch a group of friends participate in the Toronto Tough Mudder. Simply walking the spectator course nearly did her in! Eventually, the course was completed and the group of them were able to sit together and celebrate – and that is when it hit her. As if the world around her suddenly stopped, Debbie looked up and in a moment of craziness or clarity, Debbie announced that she wanted to complete the Tough Mudder the very next year.


The teamed looked around in disbelief; shock across their faces, before shouting a resounding “Game on!” And so the story begins.

Game On

Debbie describes herself as having always been a strong-willed person, focused and determined with an all or nothing attitude. However, she never seemed to apply that attitude directly to herself. After a few false fitness starts later, a friend asked Debbie if she would like to join a gym with her. Me, in a gym…Ha!, she thought. But, with the goal of completing the Tough Mudder still gnawing at her, Debbie decided to make the move and join. She realized she really had nothing to lose except weight and bad habits. The physical and emotional efforts of years of unhealthy living were finally getting to her.

A Nervous Heartbeat, A Chance Taken

Walking through the doors of the gym was one of the most intimidating things Debbie admits she’s ever done. Yet she knew it was the beginning of challenging herself, and the start of a whole new way of life. Consistency became her new best friend. She set small goals along the way which helped her tremendously. At one point, Debbie began identifying one thing every day that was a marker of a positive change, whether that was climbing a flight of stairs without stopping, doing one more rep at the gym, walking someplace instead of driving, or choosing veggies over chips.

Trainer Talk

In an effort to continue along the path of success, Debbie started working with a trainer who walked her through workouts step by step, answered any questions she had, and provided tips and strategies that helped hold her accountable.

They say change doesn’t happen overnight. Learning new things and letting go of old habits can be scary, but it can also be exciting and empowering. Being patient can be frustrating, however patience is essential if the journey is to be enjoyed.

Debbie E.

LA Fitness Pro Results® Client

Like every heroine in their journey to success, there were times when Debbie felt like giving up. She recalls days of sitting in the parking lot thinking of all the reasons why she could or should leave. There were days she really wanted to give in, but with the steadfast support of those around her, she pushed through. Through those trying times, finding guidance from the right sources was essential. She notes that “There have been many who have come along with me and pushed me. It was and continues to be helpful to find like-minded people who have been there and are continuing to work at it.”

Debbie E. and Pro Results® trainer Ian W. 

Debbie’s Typical Workout Routine Cardio – Treadmill or Stairs – 45 -60 minutes /day Weights Workout /Machines – 45 – 60 minutes /day- Push / Pull/HIIT-Core rotation.

My trainer has taught me that the basis of a successful training program relies mainly on resistance training with compound exercises, supplemented with core and accessory work as well as cardiovascular training. Form is priority number one, with intensity being a close second. We continually switch up the program and focus on constant progression, but allow patience when it comes to managing injury or illness and when life gets in the way.

My fundamental workout goal remains to get to the gym every day. I stay the course, enjoy the process, push past challenges and celebrate the successes.

My final words to those who are just beginning their journey are that you should never be afraid to try new things and don’t ever think it’s too late! I have achieved more than I ever would have dreamed possible, and I have a whole new lease on life because I dared to take that first step.

Be brave and make a change.

The Moment of Truth On August 20th, 2017, 8 months after joining LA Fitness, Debbie completed the Tough Mudder Toronto course with the support of an amazing team and trainer. She climbed, ran, pushed, pulled, fell, rolled, swung, carried and swam through 10 miles of mud and obstacles. Debbie describes the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment as being unparalleled to anything she had ever felt before. For Debbie, the overall experience has been transforming. She’s noticed that as she sheds the pounds, she feels stronger and more capable physically, mentally and emotionally. She’s also been better able to manage the juggling act of work and home. The changes have brought her a newfound sense of confidence and she knows she has added quality years to her life.

…But The Story’s Not Over

Debbie wants more of what a healthy life brings and to ensure this, her work continues! She continues to train a few times a week with her Pro Results® trainer, Ian W., and maintains the structure and routine that has led to her success. She’s also begun trying new things like Zumba® group fitness classes, and she waterskied for the first time in 30 years this past summer. In September 2017, Debbie made it to the top of a mountain that had previously done her in (she had only made it ¼ of the way before) 3 years ago, and she enjoys clothes shopping more than ever!

Future Goals

  1. To become as strong and healthy as I can, and to minimize the risks of age-related health concerns. Aging is inevitable. But I believe that being as fit as possible will help me to look and feel my best.
  2. To become the best version of myself, inside and out. I want to be an amazing role model for my children, my family, and my friends. I want to be an inspiration to others who are also on the journey of fitness. Now that I know what it is really like to feel healthy and good about my life choices, I know that I could never go back. I want to show people that if I can do it – anyone can!
  3. To continue to work with my trainer to develop new skills (and muscles). There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get when you are finally able to do something you never dreamed you would be able to do! I will continue to evolve and challenge myself while maintaining an active fitness program.
  4. To continue to use fitness as a way to combat mental and emotional fatigue. I have found that taking your frustrations out on the treadmill works better than anything else I have tried, and leaves you feeling much better than other less healthy coping methods.

Left: December 2016 | Right:January 2018

Debbie’s Diet She follows a meal plan that emphasizes balanced and healthy eating, focusing on lower carbohydrate intake. This was a huge change for her and over the course of 14 months, her diet has helped her lose over 175 lbs. and 48.5 inches (from a size 26 to an 8). She now eats smaller portions 6-7 times a day and includes vitamin supplements. She’s learned that food is fuel and that she needs to properly fuel her body so that it can perform how she wants it to.

A Special Message to LA Fitness Staff from Debbie E. Of special note, all the staff at my LA Fitness deserve a huge thank you and recognition for what they do and how they do it. Whether they know it or not, reflecting on my experience thus far, they have played a large part in why and how I kept going and keep coming back. They have been the smiling faces when I enter the gym (when I’m not so sure I was in the mood to smile back), they have offered words of encouragement and listened, they are knowledgeable, approachable and professional. I owe them all a tremendous debt of gratitude.

LAF, LA Fitness, Pro Results training, muscle logoSign up for a complimentary Pro Results® fitness assessment today! Only you can take the first step to completely transforming your life into what you’ve always dreamed it could be.

Do you have a fitness goal you’d like to share with us? What are you working towards? How do you plan to live out your life story? Commit to being fit today!

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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Oaxaca Tacos with Black Bean Stew and Tangy Swiss Chard from Cafe Flora

Oaxaca Tacos with Black Bean Stew and Tangy Swiss Chard from Cafe Flora

Owner Nat Stratton-Clarke. Photo credit: Chustine Minoda

Meet owner of Cafe Flora and Floret by Cafe Flora, Nat Stratton-Clarke.

Q: What is it about Café Flora that makes it unique to alternative healthy dining experiences?

Nat Stratton-Clarke: Cafe Flora has been a local favorite since we opened in Seattle in 1992. At that time vegetarian dining was seen as just brown rice and vegetables, we flipped that and showed our guests how textural, interesting and delicious vegetarian cuisine is. Our chef team has always worked creatively to bring in flavors from all types of cuisines, this keeps things interesting and so flavorful.

With Floret by Cafe Flora now open at Sea-Tac International Airport we have the exciting opportunity to do the same thing with travelers and share with them our delicious variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner items for both sit down and grab-and-go. They can enjoy real, healthy foods that taste amazing and just happen to be vegetarian. Also just because we are located at the airport doesn’t mean we changed our ways, we worked hard to get our farm partners “badged” to deliver to the airport so we can offer the same fresh, local produce our guests have come to know and love.

Q: How often does the menu change at Café Flora?

NSC: Our menus change seasonally so about four times per year. This allows us to plan with the seasons and for our local farmers to showcase what is fresh from their farms right now.

Q: What would you like our readers to know about adopting a more plant-based diet?

NSC: It is easier to do than you think. Dining at Floret and Cafe Flora gives our guests inspiration for when they are cooking at home. Our chef team is incredibly creative and people leave realizing there are easy ways to make delicious food that doesn’t involve animal products but is filling and packed with flavor.

Q: Why is it important for people to buy local and use sustainable ingredients versus buying from bigger grocery chains?

NSC: We have worked with local farmers and purveyors since the beginning of Cafe Flora. You not only support these hard-working folks but you support a whole community of jobs in your backyard when you buy local. And of course, it’s good for the planet. I grew up in Berkeley, CA during the Alice Waters farm-to-table movement and my family made weekly trips to the farmers market to purchase food for the week. It was what you did and it felt so natural to support what was being grown, baked and prepared right in our community. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about and it excites me to do this on a larger scale with Floret and Cafe Flora and really help other small farms and businesses thrive.

Q: What is your current favorite dish at Café Flora?

NSC: I love our Oaxaca Tacos available at both Cafe Flora and Floret. They are the most brilliant combination of flavors and textures from the cheesy mashed potatoes in crisp corn tortillas to the black bean stew, fire roasted salsa, and lime sour cream. Also, our vegan cinnamon rolls are a crowd favorite and we’ve brought our same recipe to Floret for travelers to enjoy on the go!

Photo credit: Belathee Photography

Cafe Flora is located at the following location:

Cafe Flora


LA Fitness Ballard

Distance to closest LA Fitness: 6.2 miles to Ballard LA Fitness

Cafe Flora is located in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood at 2901 East Madison Street. Open Monday-Friday at 9 a.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner with weekend brunch from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. and dinner at 5 p.m. Menus and additional details at

Floret by Cafe Flora is located at Sea-Tac International Airport between A and B Terminals and is open daily for grab-and-go from 5 a.m. – 9 p.m. and dine-in from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. both offering breakfast, lunch and dinner items. Full menus available at



Oaxaca Tacos with Black Bean Stew and Tangy Swiss Chard


For the Tacos

  • 1 ½ pounds (about 3 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) smoked mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup (about 2 ounces) cheddar cheese, shredded
  • A big pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Vegetable oil for preparing the tortillas
  • 8 thin corn tortillas
  • 1 small red or green pepper, seeds removed, finely diced
  • Toothpicks

For the Black Bean Stew

  • 1 cup dried black beans, soaked for 8 hours, or 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

For the Chard

  • 1 big bunch red or green Swiss chard, most of the stems removed, leaves left whole
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish, to taste: crumbled feta, crème fraiche, Pico de gallo salsa


Step 1: Cook the beans. If using dried, soaked beans, drain them and put them in 5 cups of boiling water. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered until the beans are tender, but still hold their shape, about 1 ½ hours. If using canned beans, drain and replace with 1 cup cold water. Combine the cooked beans with the corn, garlic, cilantro, red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, chili powder, oregano, brown sugar and salt and simmer until the flavors are blended, about 15 minutes.

Step 2: Cook the potatoes in just enough boiling water to cover until they are tender, about 20 minutes. Then mash the potatoes with butter and salt and keep warm. In a small bowl, combine the cheeses and red pepper flakes and keep them nearby.

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and have ready a baking sheet or roasting pan to hold the tacos. Heat 1/8 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and soft-fry the tortillas, without allowing them to become crisp, one at a time. (The tortillas should be oily and soft so they will crisp in the oven after they are filled.)

Step 4: Fill each tortilla with 1/3 cup of the mashed potatoes, 1/8 cup of the grated cheese mixture and a generous tablespoon of the chopped pepper. Roll the tortillas around the filling and secure them with toothpicks. Arrange the tacos in a single layer on the baking sheet or roasting pan and bake until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crisp, about 18 minutes.

Step 5: While the tacos are baking, steam the chard in a covered pan over a small amount of boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Puree the garlic with lemon juice and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, then toss it with the steamed Swiss chard.

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